Hideki Matsui had a friend waiting for him when he reported for his first day at Athletics training camp Sunday morning. A big blowup Godzilla doll wearing a Matsui jersey, Oakland cap and spikes.
Matsui didn't notice the doll at first when he walked into the clubhouse, leading to a brief nervous moment.
"I hope he thought it was funny,'' Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "Dallas Braden wanted to welcome him and do something funny. It was interesting when he came in, I don't think he saw it at first. Then when he did, he said, 'That's funny.' But there was a moment there when we weren't sure whether he thought it was funny or not. It was like a comedian opening up at a nightclub and he does his first joke and no one does anything -- it's like cricket noises.''
"To be welcomed in that manner is really a pleasure. I'm really happy,'' Matsui told reporters. "Godzilla was the last character I ever thought I'd be welcomed by."
Braden called his agent Thursday and told him he needed the Godzilla doll ASAP. "I told him, 'Hey, I need a Godzilla doll, as big as you can find it, in the locker room, by tomorrow. They tracked it down, found the one I wanted and within two days, it was here. They did a good job. … I told Hideki, I need the shoes back because those are mine.''
Geren said Matsui will be used primarily as the designated hitter but that he may get some time in the outfield during this spring. "It's not bad for him to keep those skills up in case we ever need him there.''
At least two dozen Japanese media were on hand for Matsui's arrival, greatly swelling the ranks of the crew that normally covers the Athletics. Geren said the extra attention adds to the usual spring training excitement and expectations. "It's a different feel. It's welcome, too.''
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.